A day of deliverance for Club Med, which seemed to be hanging around endlessly in slack air off the Cape Verde Islands.
At the 1100 GMT position report, the leader had "cruised" 179 miles in 24 hours. That's not exactly going to quash their anxiety, even if it is only symbolic, because at the same time Innovation Explorer has run across the Doldrums without stopping. 644 miles apart, is nothing when you consider that these giants of the sea can gobble up, between 500 and 550 miles in a day.
"We touched the first effects of the depression a good three hours ago," said Jacques Caraes (Club MEd) during the daily chat show. "We're not yet on a direct route but it won't be long. The wind for the moment is southerly, then it will gradually turn south-westerly. We have spent a lot of energy to keep the boat going in these really light airs. Paradoxically, it's more tiring to keep these boats underway in light winds. The sea is flat and we're doing 20 knots. All is well." While the boys on board are forecasting a Saturday morning finish, others estimates it will be more likely Saturday afternoon.
"We're sailing in 15 to 16 knots of wind at about 17/18 knots boat speed" declared Thierry Douillard on Innovation Explorer. Still, that's quite fast for a boat just out of the Doldrums, and mile after mile Loick Peyron's maxi-catamaran is narrowing the gap with the leader. 1200 miles last Wednesday, 644 miles at today's 1100 GMT position report. So it's good humour all round at the bottom of the North Atlantic, especially as the low pressure system could also act as a conveyor belt for them too. "We have benefited from exceptional conditions. But normally we should get a bit of a lull tonight because we'll be right in between two systems (the trade wind system and this low) but then we should be able to hook up to this depression that could then take us quite a long way up". Even if Innovation Explorer does pick up the good effects of this low within the next 48 hours, there is going to be another accordion effect to orchestrate, because Club MEd in the lead should start to reclaim her ground lost over the last few days to the benefit of Innovation Explorer, which should in turn be slowed down.
Team Adventure and Warta-Polpharma are in the grips of a "mother and father" of all depressions. 50 knots of established wind and a seaway generated by several days of this wind regime. Needless to say, those are tough conditions, and they will be following the boats as far as Cape Horn even if the wind should fall a bit - to 40 knots. After having fought off Team Adventure for several days, the Polish boat is now firmly behind. 2000 miles further behind, Team Legato is still bogged down in the anticyclone allowing them a paltry 2.5 knots. By heading north-east, what could Tony Bullimore be after?
Ranking (26/02/01 15:00:00 GMT)
Name Speed DTF DTL
1 Club MEd 21.0 2187.8 0
2 Innovation Explorer 19.1 2869.8 682.0
3 TeamAdventure 13.1 8084.8 5897.0
4 Warta Polpharma 11.4 8375.1 6187.3
5 Team Legato 5.1 10302.4 8114.6